Recently, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos announced an historical agreement with the narco-terrorist guerrilla group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that he hopes will be signed in the coming weeks.

The Colombian government as well as that of the United States views this agreement as an important step towards ending violence and war in a country that has fought tenaciously in the last few decades to secure law and order.

Thanks largely to the policies of the previous president, Álvaro Uribe, coupled with the U.S. backed, Plan Colombia, the country has evolved from being a country dominated by anarchy and drug trafficking into a country of laws. The drug traffickers, who gave it their own artistic and cultural flavor, controlled major cities like Medellin. They were the city’s largest employer and introduced a culture of prostitution and frivolity and an admiration for the worst kinds of vices.

By the end of Uribe’s presidency, the number of FARC guerrillas had been reduced by half and the para-militaries had disarmed in exchange for amnesty. Colombia’s metamorphosis returned the country to a state of normalcy and the rule of law.

The FARC has been a huge part of the problem that made Colombian citizens’ life into a living hell. Although originally a guerrilla group inspired by the 1960’s euphoria created by the Cuban Revolution (and supported by Cuba as well), it turned into a drug cartel mixing revolutionary violence with greedy profits. Extortion, kidnapping for ransom, and other forms of criminal activity served as a source of income, making the FARC into one of the richest guerrilla groups in the world.

In the last fifty years, FARC activities left a balance of 220,000 people dead (many of them cruelly massacred), millions displaced, and 12,000 children recruited by the group to fight a violent and senseless war.

In their joint ceasefire agreement, the Colombian government and the FARC most importantly, established how disarmament would take place. According to their joint statement, the agreement includes disarmament, security guarantees and the fight against criminal organizations”.

Thus, FARC members would move to a specific area within Colombia for a time period of six months while the United Nations would verify that the FARC is not using their weapons. After that, the FARC would deliver their weapons to the government while the safety of the guerilla fighters would be guaranteed.

In addition, the government and the FARC agreed on several other points. The government agreed to carry out an agrarian reform based on a better distribution of land among peasants. Likewise, the parties agreed that drug trafficking activities must be eliminated. They also agreed to establish a method of “Transitional Justice” that allows guerilla members a way out of jail or other punishment even for crimes against humanity in exchange for the “truth, compensation for victims, and commitment not to repeat these crimes again”. Amnesty would be granted for crimes such as drug trafficking as long as these crimes were committed as part of the (collective) illegal guerrilla activities of the FARC. In other words, drug trafficking for the sake of drug trafficking and profit will not be pardoned.

The bottom line here is that by accepting the peace and agreeing to disarm, FARC members receive a de-facto general amnesty. It is reasonable to assume that compensation for victims will allow the overwhelming majority of FARC members to escape jail or other types of punishment.

At this point, disagreement between the parties exists on one key issue. Whereas, President Santos is looking to carry out a referendum on the agreement, the FARC opposes a referendum. Also, the FARC is seeking to guarantee the agreement through making it a part of the Colombian Constitution

A constitutional court will have to decide about the best way to approve the agreement.

However, the inclusion of an agreement like this in the national constitution will tie the government’s hands and will reduce the government’s power of maneuver in case there are violations. Usually, a constitution is designed to guarantee rights against government abuse. However, to constitutionalize an agreement like this will rather serve to defend the rights of FARC’s members against the government but not the rights of the government, which is a partner in the pact.

If the FARC demand is conceded, the Colombian government is likely to face multiple legal problems in the future if the FARC violates the terms of the agreement.

A referendum on the other hand, will enable those voices who challenge the agreement to be heard exactly like those who support it. This will be a democratic display of competing views whose ultimate judge will be the court of public opinion.

The FARC also demanded a number of guaranteed seats in Congress. It is not clear how far the Government wants to go but what makes more sense than anything else is that once the FARC establishes itself as a political party, they should run for office as any other party. Their seats should be given by the people not by government decision. To give them power without having earned it via vote is like giving them representation and a voice they do not have. If they are a true political party they need to prove it not only by following procedure but also by showing good intentions.

Therefore, we see no reason to reward a criminally culpable guerrilla group such as the FARC with special privileges without them proving themselves first.

The other problem is what would happen to the territories controlled by the FARC, once the group evacuates these territories. Could these territories be taken over by another guerrilla groups like the Army of National Liberation (ELN )or by other criminal elements? Some groups of this type have already been seen moving in that direction.

Here it is crucial that the Colombian Army not do anything without being one hundred percent sure that their government can exercise full control of the evacuated territories. If the government does not have the ability to do so, the FARC nightmare will be replaced by another one.

Although the population is inclined to view these agreements in a more positive light after the parties signed the agreement on disarmament last month, the government needs to make sure it can guarantee that it has the upper hand.

If the conditions we described before are not fulfilled, Colombia may succumb to another anarchical and bloody chapter in its history.

Most importantly, the FARC must show, through their actions, that they will refrain from violence, give up their weapons, their territory, and the main thrust of their resources. The agreement should project a victorious Colombian state offering a chance to the FARC. It cannot be an agreement between equals since the former represents the law and the latter an assault on the law.

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